Voices From The Heartland · Jeff Meyer · Thursday May 22, 2008
In the NASCAR world — no matter which of the three top series you happen to be talking about — the news of multi-million dollar sponsorship deals are the norm.
Take, for instance, the recently announced Roush-Fenway Racing/Aflac deal. Aflac has stepped up to be the primary sponsor for Carl Edwards and the No. 99 team for the next three years, to the tune of about 25.3 million dollars a year. Speed, they say, costs money; and lots of sponsors out there are shelling out big bucks to see their name go by really, really fast.
But at the other end of the spectrum, you have arguably the biggest, most important sponsor of all time. This “sponsor” does not sit down every few years and negotiate a new contract for x amount of dollars. No, they wrote their first contract many, many years ago and, in fact, have never “renegotiated” it since.
That sponsor is God … and his team is Faith Motorsports.
The Faith Motorsports’ No. 89 “Racing With Jesus” Nationwide Series race car is piloted and co-owned by 66-year-old Morgan Shepherd. There are no big budgets on Shepherd’s team, no multi-million dollar deals. No super fancy crew uniforms, either; in fact, there’s hardly a crew at all. Instead, this team runs on faith, perseverance, and a desire to do their sponsor’s will.
At age 66, Shepherd is not new to NASCAR. Since 1970, at the age of 28, Shepherd has amassed 513 Cup starts, 4 wins, 63 Top 5s and 168 Top 10s. His record in the now Nationwide Series is even more impressive with 223 starts, 15 wins, 44 Top 5s, and 67 Top 10s.
But Shepherd’s well-documented venture with his own team hasn’t produced those same types of gaudy numbers. And after struggling for much of the past decade in Cup with a skeleton crew and an almost non-existent budget, Faith Motorsports turned their attention to racing in the Nationwide Series, beginning with last year.
But even there, you still have the speed = money equation. However, for Faith Motorsports, it’s not about the speed. What it is about is spreading the message of Jesus Christ through a non-traditional means. As it says on their website, www.racewithfaith.com, “There are many people who will attend a NASCAR event who may not be interested in hearing the gospel from a preacher or anyone affiliated with a particular church. What they are interested in is an ever growing sport – NASCAR.”
It is through this interest in racing that Morgan Shepherd and his team is able to spread the word through a variety of means. Partnering with Motor Racing Outreach and Raceway Ministries, Shepherd’s Victory in Jesus Racing Ministries is able to participate in concerts, campground outreach programs, and various other track events. These programs, however, are boosted by Shepherd’s presence on the race track; and again, that takes resources.
Luckily for Shepherd, those resources are being bolstered, however, by some of racing’s bigger names. In the past month, Kevin and DeLana Harvick have stepped up to give Morgan another race car to use for his small but growing fleet, and Dale Jarrett has pledged to provide Shepherd’s tires for this weekend’s upcoming Carquest Auto Parts 300 at Lowe’s Motor Speedway.
“I am just so thankful for Kevin and DeLana and their willingness to help me,”
Shepherd said. “I just couldn’t believe it when they called and told me they were giving me a race car. I just didn’t know what to say. I am just so honored to have friends like the Harvicks, Tony Stewart, Matt Yocum, and the Jarretts.” (Stewart and Yocum have provided tires for Shepherd in the past)
Harvick’s gift has brought the number of cars in Faith Motorsports’ fleet to four, enabling them to have two for short and intermediate tracks, one for road courses, and one dedicated for superspeedway use.
In today’s NASCAR world of big budgets and big names, it is good to know that there is one team out there that isn’t really interested in anything but spreading the Word of God and helping others. It is also nice to know that their sponsor does provide for them the resources to get that job done. And you know what — even if Morgan should happen to fail to qualify for an event — his sponsor still gets top billing! Even before our National Anthem!
Whether you are a believer or not, I strongly urge you to visit the Faith Motorsports website. If nothing else, you find out what motivates a man to truly trust God to provide what he needs — allowing him to race for what he actually believes in.
Stay off the wall,
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